By Erik Machuca
Midterms are three weeks away and Dr. Marcel Morales provided East Los Angeles College students the blueprint to academic success last Thursday.
Morales, a sociology instructor at ELAC, presented “The X Factors of Success in Higher Education for Latinos in L.A.”
The purpose of this is to identify and describe the personal strategies, institutional support and individual factors used by Latino males who successfully completed transfer requirements in the Los Angeles Community College District.
Morales found that the most important “X” factors to higher education were a tipping point or break through moment, mentor mystique, time management skills, “the comeback kid,” accumulative advantage, individual merit and tenacity.
Through two years of research and a test population of over 300 Latino males with a GPA of 3.0 or above, Morales gathered quantitative data to find both what actions made the Latino male successful and what the college did for the Latino male.
The top four services reported by successful Latino students through the survey were counseling and academic advising, financial scholarships, the transfer center and the library program.
Morales also worked with Dr. Amanda Romero, sociology instructor at Mount St. Mary’s College, to find the deeper dynamics unattainable through quantitative analysis.
“Through focus groups, we found self-efficacy was most important. No one’s going to make you successful, but yourself,” Morales said.
During the course of 10 in-depth interviews with Latino students, Morales found that having expectations for oneself, having a motivation to graduate and having interest in a specific career were the leading individual foundations to academic success.
“‘I want to be a doctor, I want to be a social worker, or I want to be a chemist.’ These people knew what they wanted to do and they had a pathway carved out to get there,” Morales said.
Morales said it was also fundamental to become familiar with the community college system and to take advantage of its services.
“The lack of knowledge in enrolling into community college is harmful because it is the first generation that creates these ultimate educational gaps,” Morales said.
While this study was focused on one ethnicity, Morales said it doesn’t solely apply to Latinos. Any group who is struggling can learn, apply and replicate these “X” factors for success.
Recent trends show that the Latina women in the United States are the minority that is most quickly reaching educational attainment.
But the Latino male is not following suit.
Among the challenges the Latino male faces in higher education is the masculine gender role theory.
“Machismo is in direct conflict with academic success. Men live under a very different strain. Men don’t form study groups, we don’t ask for help, and we don’t network,” Morales said.